Barbara Ogden Pearson 1934-2014
On July 4, 2014, Gig Harbor lost a most valuable and dedicated member of our community, Barbara (Barb) Ogden Pearson.
Although Barbara dedicated much of her time, energy and talents to numerous Gig Harbor Peninsula charitable community and social organizations, her most passionate interest was in the local history of Gig Harbor, the Peninsula and the surrounding areas.
You have been touched by her whether you are aware or not whenever you learn something about our community and its people. As a founding member of the museum, her dedication will continue to shine throughout the years. And, as you read through the museum’s timeline and the reminiscences of her friends we hope you will come to know Barbara better, and thank her for all she has done and what she has accomplished for our benefit.
Barbara’s love of history started early in life, or as she put it “for as long as I can remember”. Throughout her life, from a very early age and continuing through the present, Barbara loved every minute researching the history connected to her own genealogy but also the history of her “unique” community. The way she expressed it was “I love it. It’s just part of me”.
And speaking of Barbara’s growing up in her unique community of Gig Harbor, she shared this memory with Linda McCowen: “Her family had a sailboat that they sailed all over the Sound. She learned to row a dinghy by being put in the boat, tied to the dock, and rowed around the front of her property. Later, she and (her Sister) Dorothy rowed across the bay to go to school, ditching the rowboat at the dock below Berkheimer’s Hardware Store and her life jacket underneath the store counter. The store was in the now Harbor Inn (Windermere) parking lot across from Spiro’s (Pizza & Pasta).”
This picture explains why rowed across the bay was faster than walking around the harbor. Barbara’s childhood hood is the house on furthest left (Goodman Drive); it no longer exists and in its place is a huge cream stucco house.
As you read through the Timeline of the museum Barbara’s handprint is very visible.
- November 6, 1963: Gail Reed, Jewel Holsinger, and Esther Snowden, members of the American Association of University Women, met to organize a group of Peninsula women to find out about local history, industry, geology, transportation, etc. Each was asked to bring 3 or 4 prospective members, with Bruce LeRoy, Director of the Washington Historical Society, Tacoma, to be speaker. The group would include any woman in the community that was interested, AAUW members or not
- February 18, 1964: First meeting was held at home of Jewel Holsinger’s. The meeting date would be the 2nd Tuesday of the month, 9:30-11:30 am. There were nine meeting that day; Barbara Pearson was there. The group would meet monthly, September through June.
- January 15, 1965: Barbara Pearson and Esther Snowden began slide shows. The next month Kay Weaver and Barbara Pearson gave a presentation to the Wiggenagamote Round Table.
- April 2, 1966: Members gave a program to AAUW, each presenter speaking 5 minutes. Pat Lantz (Rosedale), Ann Kirby (Wollochet), Esther Snowden (Fox Island), Barbara Pearson (Warren), ArtaLou Kennedy (Purdy), and Marilyn Arnold (Wauna/Burley).
- June 5, 1970: Jean Lyle, Esther Snowden and Barbara Pearson take took the papers of incorporation to Olympia to file on May 21.
The Peninsula Study Group incorporated under the name of The Peninsula Historical Society. “The objects of the society shall is the discovery, preservation, and desimination of knowledge about the history of the mainland part of Pierce County lying west of the Narrows, South of the Kitsap County line, known as the Gig Harbor Peninsula and the Longbranch Peninsula. More particularly the objects shall be:
· To discover any material which may establish or illustrate the history of this area.
· To provide for the preservation of such material and for its accessibility, as far as may be feasible, to all who wish to examine it or study it…
· To disseminate historical and arouse interest in the past by publishing historical material in the newspapers and otherwise; by holding meetings with addresses, papers, and discussion; and by marking historical buildings, sites and trails.
Dues will be $2.00 a year.
- 1970: the first Harbor Holidays celebration
|6/13/70 Barbara Pearson at center; riding with Geri & Roy Peterson, Dorothea Peterson, Brad Peterson in Dr. Searl's horse wagon rig - They won the Judges' Award|
|1972 Christmas Picture of the members of GHPHS Seated Jean Lyle-Robertson, Barbara Pearson, Joan Bassett, Standing Unknown, Helen Matthaei, Shirley Wendle, Unknown, Dorothea Peterson, Esther Snowden, Unknown, Bonnie Anderson|
- 1970: Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society started having school classes come to the museum to learn about its history
- President: Barbara Pearson; 1975 and 1976; Corresponding Secretary (they also had a recording Secretary) for 1977
- 1976: Began using acid-free boxes, and learning about cataloguing and filing artifacts, manuscripts and photos. Barbara Pearson studied the best practices to teach other members.
- 1976: The Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society started their first Quilt Raffle to raise funds for the museum with a Bicentennial Quilt. It was also in 1976 (until 1987) that the GHPHS started publishing an historical calendar with local artists reproducing old historical photographs of the community.
|1979 - Barbara Pearson with winner Jim Wright at Quilt Raffle|
- 1977: Groups went to the Southwest Washington Association of Small Museum Workers meeting, listening to Dave Nicandri, former head of the Washington State Capital Museum in Olympia and the Washington State Museum in Tacoma. Barbara Pearson and Esther Snowden went to Ellensburg to meetings.
- 1977: Dorothy Hull, from the Elizabeth Forey Chapter of the DAR contributed these memories:
- She was very proud of her Patriot, Jedediah Ogden, a private from New Jersey.
- She served our Elizabeth Forey Chapter in many ways, as an officer, committee chairman, as a delegate to State Conferences and to Continental Congress held in Washington DC, and annually hosting a meeting at her home. She also organized the monthly Gig Harbor carpool to our meetings. She was warm and welcoming to members and guests at all our meetings.
- She held the office of Registrar, helping prospective members, and the office of Chaplain twice.
- Some of her committee interests were in Lineage Research, Genealogical Records, American Heritage, and Conservation.
- She attended several DAR Lineage Research Training seminars held by our national society and in turn helped in giving seminars to our chapter members.
- Several times she participated with other members in the 4th of July parade in Steilacoom.
- When our chapter celebrated our 75th anniversary in 1997 Barbara contributed to our memory booklet that she remembered at the end of WWII there was a celebration "Gig Harbor style -- Church bells rang, fishing boats blew whistles, guns saluted. 'We sat on our bulkhead crying, laughing, and yelling while sound reverberated around the harbor.'
- 1978: After consulting with the Lewis County Historical Society, Barbara Pearson and Esther Snowden drove to Chehalis to pick up archival boxes.
- 1979: The GHPHS moved into the basement of the old St. Nicholas Catholic Church to house the museum.
|9/1981 L to R: Dorothy O'Donnell, Shirley Wendle, Unknown, Barbara Pearson, Jean Lyle-Robertson, Joan Bassett, June Doherty, moving into original St. Nicholas Catholic Church basement|
- The GHPHS published Bridging the Narrows by Joe Gotchy which was edited by the then GHPHS Director, Gladys Para.
- 1997-2003: Chris Fiala Erlich served as Director of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society and Museum and this is what Chris had to say:
- “Barbara had great passion and dedication to Gig Harbor history that was evident from the first time I met her. She was the personification of the society’s mission to preserve and share the community’s story of its past.
- I admired her encyclopedic memory. Anytime I researched and wrote something on Gig Harbor history, I depended on her review. She would often be able to point me in directions that “ordinary” research methods did not uncover. During my years at the museum, she took on the monumental task of organizing the society’s research files – an extensive collection of newspaper clippings, memoirs, and other materials. It was not an easy task or a quick one, but she kept at it.
- What I most remember, however, was her kind and generous support of my work. She was always there, to do whatever I asked, or to just offer a few words of encouragement. She was a gracious lady, who will be long and well remembered. “
- 2000-2013: Victoria Blackwell, Curator, put it this way: “For me, Barbara Pearson was the heart and soul of the museum. Her incredible knowledge of the people and events that shaped Gig Harbor was, and forevermore will be, unmatched. It was an honor to know her and to help her achieve her dream of creating the Harbor History Museum.”
- 2004: Jennifer Kilmer, the new Executive Director, started the Leadership Council, comprised of former board members: Barbara and Gene Pearson, Rosemary Ross, Jake Bujacich, Don McCarty and Joe Hoots.
- 2007: The GHPHS acquired the former Peninsula Light Company and Beach Basket Gardens property at the current location of the museum, and broke ground for the new museum.
|Ground Breaking July 14, 2007|
|Barbara Pearson at construction of the current Harbor History Museum|
- 2009: Barbara and Gene Pearson named the Resource Room in honor of Barbara’s mother, Marjorie Ogden, and worked with the architects to make it a workable and flexible space that it is.
- 2009: Barbara is successfully nominated for the DAR Community Service Award by Jennifer Kilmer, Executive Director and Rosemary Ross, member of the Leadership Council, of the Harbor History Museum.
Rosemary Ross and Barbara both attended Peninsula High School where they became friends even though Barbara was younger and a grade behind Rosemary. After graduation, they completely lost track of each other and it wasn’t until Rosemary retired from the Peninsula School District in 1995 and Rosemary began volunteering at the museum that they resumed their friendship.
Rosemary went on to say “Barbara lived and breathed the museum and was very much looking forward to being a huge part of this 50 anniversary. What a tragedy in the timing of her death.”
Barbara, you are missed. But your gifts and contributions to the community and to the Harbor History Museum will live on. Thank you.
Thanks to the following Contributors:
- Linda McCowen
- Rosemary Ross
- Dorothy Hull
- Chris Fiala Erlich
- Victoria Gehl-Blackwell
Written by Tomi Kent-Smith